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BENNINGTON — Police have renewed no-trespass notices against several juveniles after the family of a former state legislator reported that the home disturbances they experienced in 2018 have resumed.

James Lawton, the husband of former state Rep. Kiah Morris, told Bennington police Tuesday night that a teenage boy had knocked on their door then ran away. The images and sounds from earlier that night were captured on the home's surveillance video, which Lawton shared with the Banner.

Lawton said he recognized the boy as someone who regularly walked by their house with another teen — one of seven juveniles previously ordered not to enter Lawton and Morris' property on Morgan Street.

In September 2018, local police issued no-trespass notices against the juveniles after Lawton reported that a group of young people had knocked on their windows and banged on their doors numerous times over three days that month. The juveniles ranged in age from 12-16.

"There's no doubt in our mind," Lawton told the Banner on Thursday, that the incident Tuesday night had "a connection" with the incidents two years ago.

When asked what he thought was motivating the juveniles' actions, Lawton said he didn't care about their motive, adding he never claimed the 2018 incidents were racially motivated.

"Whatever their motivation is is theirs to hold in their hearts," he said. "The bottom line is we remain a target of this group."

Besides losing sleep, Lawson said the incident on Tuesday brought back negative memories from 2018.

"It just instantly triggers the trauma of that nightmare from before, because that also happened in the middle of a bunch of other stuff," he said.

Morris — the only African-American woman in the Vermont legislature — resigned from her House seat in September 2018, citing racially based harassment and threats that she and her family experienced.

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Earlier that month, Lawson underwent a triple bypass heart surgery. Three days after being released from the hospital, the incidents involving the juveniles started, and he was taken back to the hospital when his blood pressure spiked. The family eventually decided to stay at a local inn, so they could get away from the house.

The Bennington Police Department has renewed the seven no-trespass notices at Lawton's request, said Chief Paul Doucette. The notices are good for one year, but can be reissued for cause at the property owner's request.

All the notices were served by mid-afternoon Thursday, said Lawton, who received a copy of each notice in accordance with the police department's policy.

He commended BPD officer Derek Osgood, who responded to his call Tuesday night, for being attentive and concerned. Osgood apparently suggested renewing the no-trespass orders and began working on them at the scene.

A no-trespass notice informs the recipient that he or she cannot enter or remain on someone's property. And violating the notice could result in an arrest, Doucette said.

The notice recipients cannot be named because they are minors.

In the past week, Doucette said, other residents of Morgan Street have also reported being the target of juveniles playing "Ding Dong Ditch" - in which they knock on windows or doors then run away. Police are aware of such incidents that happened on Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday, and are trying to identify the juveniles involved.

"Patrols are increased when time permits," Doucette added.

Contact Tiffany Tan at, @tiffgtan on Twitter or 802-447-7567 ext. 122.


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